Archive for July 2011

abundance

July 22, 2011

Living mostly from one’s own garden is partially an exercise in doing without. But addicted as I once was to my Granny Smith a day, it hasn’t been so hard to trade the petroleum apple for whatever is freshest at a given moment. I’m finding that it’s more challenging, actually, to live well with the daily abundance, to enjoy what the earth offers today without worrying too much about tomorrow.

I brought in my first zucchini (and a few other things) a couple of mornings ago. I picked them quite small, which felt a little wasteful — another day or two in the sun and I would have doubled my food supply, for free. And there is always the prospect of an impromptu dinner — I find myself hesitating to bring in, say, a giant helping of lovely baby arugula for myself, because how will I add interest to tomorrow night’s salad otherwise?

But those tender tonic leaves, while precious, aren’t like the jar of balsamic vinegar one keeps on the shelf for special guests. Set to the side, young arugula only disappears into a tougher version of itself, simultaneously fierce and faded. Better to mow down half the patch for your breakfast and leave the rest to go to seed while you eat something else. The cycle will begin again soon enough. I know this intellectually, but every year my desire to hold on to the fruits of my labors, to save them for a special occasion, has caused me to lose some of them altogether.

Zucchini won’t be exciting for long, but after months of leaves, these first young fruits — along with a few handfuls of beans and peas — are to be savored. Right away. What occasion is more special, after all, than this moment of perfect deliciousness?

berry good

July 15, 2011

soft lettuce + fennel + berries with raspberry dressing

purslane harvest

purslane + blueberries + honey mint vinaigrette

one man’s weeds

July 3, 2011

Last year, I discovered purslane. I had read about the low-growing plant, with its small succulent leaves and pink stems, in Euell Gibbons’ Stalking the Wild Asparagus, and I was thrilled to identify some growing right in my very own garden. Since  purslane offers more chew than most of the edible leaves available in early summer, plus a pleasant, mild flavor, I actually encouraged it, clearing other weeds from its base while carefully harvesting the tips for my salads. This turned out to be not the best idea — by summer’s end I had more purslane than even yellow squash. So on Friday, when I began coming across the first pink-stemmed creepers, I ripped them out, roots and all. I’ll still enjoy a taste of purslane — but just this once. With this handful (on the checked towel, below), I made a quick, dill-flavored pickle.

Over the course of the afternoon, I also lifted out a few particularly fat dandelion roots. I first tried eating these a couple of years ago (again, on the advice of Uncle Euell) and was amazed at how delicious they are. After an initial boiling with a pinch of baking soda, their bitterness is leached out and a nutty, artichoke-y flavor remains. They also bring a welcome bit of substance to the table.

While I brought the dandelion roots to a boil, I set a bowl containing some of last year’s dried tomatoes, chopped green garlic, and a few glugs of olive oil next to the stove to soften in the steamy heat. Once the roots were tender, I drained and dried them, then threw into a hot cast-iron skillet to brown. A few minutes later, I added some walnuts — just long enough to toast them — then turned the hot mixture into the bowl of oily tomatoes. With some chopped wild arugula thrown in at the last second, it made a fine supper, served over some toasted stale cornbread.

salad days

July 3, 2011

thursday morning harvest

greens with home fries

arugula fennel frittata

lettuces w/marinated strawberries & toasted squash seeds... frittata on the side